October 5, 2022

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Slater, Dubón and Junis come up big for Giants

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WASHINGTON — The Giants were a model of resiliency last year, consistently showing the ability to bounce back from tough losses en route to winning a franchise-record 107 games. They seem to be bringing that quality into 2022.

After dropping three of four games to the Mets, the Giants got back on track by rolling to a 7-1 win over the Nationals on Friday night at Nationals Park.

Austin Slater crushed a three-run home run and Brandon Crawford added a bases-clearing double as San Francisco erupted for seven runs to knock Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin out of the game in the second inning.

Here are three takeaways from the Giants’ series-opening win:

1. Slater shakes off rust with big blow vs. Corbin
The Giants were in the midst of a long stretch in which they were primarily facing right-handed pitching, leaving limited opportunities for Slater, who has emerged as one of the club’s most dangerous weapons against lefties. Slater finally got his first start in nine days Friday, playing left field and batting leadoff against left-handed Corbin.

The right-handed-hitting Slater entered the game batting only .105 over his first 10 games, but he made the most of his start against Corbin, blasting a three-run shot to the opposite field that highlighted the Giants’ seven-run second. It was the first home run of the year for Slater, who also saved a pair of runs with a diving catch in the bottom of the first and added a single off right-hander Erasmo Ramírez in the third to lift his batting average to .167.

Slater said manager Gabe Kapler approached him after he struck out in his first at-bat to give him a timely boost of confidence that helped buoy him for the remainder of the night.

“After the first at-bat, Gabe pulled me to the side and just reminded me that I was a good hitter,” Slater said. “He said, ‘Swag it out, be you and remember that you’re a good hitter.’ I guess the pep talk worked.”

2. Dubón’s 93.4-mph rocket
With Steven Duggar hitting the 60-day injured list with a moderate left oblique strain Friday, the Giants could lean on super utility man Mauricio Dubón to help fill their void in center field. Dubón has endured a slow start at the plate — he went 0-for-3 to drop his batting average to .158 over his first seven games — but he flashed his defensive prowess in the third, when he made a spectacular throw to nab Nationals star Juan Soto at third base.

Soto smoked a 387-foot drive off the right-field wall for his 500th career hit, but he was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple by Dubón, who quickly corralled the ball and uncorked a 93.4-mph, one-hop throw to third baseman Wilmer Flores, who applied the tag for the final out of the inning. The Nationals challenged the call, but the ruling was upheld following a replay review.

“Unbelievable throw,” Slater said. “He did it from the wall. It was an unbelievable throw and right on the money. He got a guy that’s pretty fast. Great play from Dubi.”

3. Junis, González debut
A pair of newcomers — right-hander Jakob Junis and outfielder Luis González — joined the Giants on Friday and saw immediate action after being promoted from Triple-A Sacramento. Junis, who was recalled to replace the injured Anthony DeSclafani, relieved opener Sam Long in the third inning and allowed only three hits over five scoreless innings in his Giants debut.

Signed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal in March, Junis struggled to an 8.74 ERA over 11 1/3 innings in his first three starts for Sacramento, but he looked sharp Friday, leaning primarily on his slider and changeup to stymie the Nationals. The outing could be an audition for a longer look in the rotation, especially since the Giants are now down two starters following the injuries to DeSclafani (right ankle inflammation) and Alex Cobb (right adductor strain).

“We signed Junis with the understanding that he was going to pitch meaningful innings for us this season and probably make some important starts for us,” Kapler said.

González, who gives the Giants another left-handed-hitting outfielder to replace Duggar, pinch-hit for Dubón in the seventh, becoming the 1,000th player in San Francisco history, per the club. The appearance capped a long road back to the Majors for González, a 2017 third-round Draft pick who appeared in nine games for the White Sox before undergoing season-ending right shoulder surgery in August.

The Giants acquired González despite the injury, stashing him on the 60-day IL and helping him rehab his shoulder before re-signing him to a Minor League deal over the offseason. González rewarded their faith by emerging as a spring standout and continuing to produce at Triple-A Sacramento, where he hit .283 with an .889 OPS and three home runs over 11 games before earning his first callup with the Giants.

“It means a lot,” González said. “This is my dream. This is where I want to be. It’s good to be back in the bigs but with the Giants this time.”

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